Is social phobia real? What is it like to have social anxiety?

  • Social phobia is characterized by an intense fear of being negatively assessed or observed by others.
  • This form of anxiety (like most forms) can make everyday tasks difficult, as the fear is excessive and can completely take over one’s life.
  • In addition to worrying about being scrutinized, those with social phobia worry that others will catch onto their social fears and anxiety.
  • The symptoms of this disorder are severe and not to be taken lightly—struggling to give a presentation in front of a large audience is not equivalent to social phobia.
  • The good news is there is treatment for this anxiety disorder: both counseling and medication can help.

Imagine you’re walking into a party. Instead of greeting all of your friends with smiles and hugs, you look down at your feet and rush immediately to the bathroom. Your heart is racing and sweat is running down your forehead. Everyone’s talking about me. They hate my outfit. They don’t think I belong here. They think I’m a loser. You spend 20 minutes in the bathroom just working up the courage to leave. Finally, you’re able to make it out—head down and quickly, of course. As soon as you step outside of the house and enter a quiet, isolated space you can breathe again.

This is a brief look at what it’s like to suffer with social anxiety or social phobia—the main feature being an intense fear of social situations in which an individual may be negatively viewed by others. As you can see, the effects of social anxiety can make what should be a simple or even fun task difficult.

What Are the Symptoms of Social Phobia?

The following are symptoms, as well as diagnostic criteria for social anxiety, as set forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5):

  • The individual has an intense fear of social situations that may involve being scrutinized or observed by others.
  • He or she worries that others will take notice of this fear or anxiety and make fun of them for it, which may lead to rejection.
  • Social situations always make the individual grow fearful; in children, this fear is expressed through cries, clinging, and tantrums.
  • Social situations are avoided at all cost.
  • The fear is excessive, especially compared to the actual threat of the social situation at hand.
  • The fear causes severe stress or impairment in important areas of functioning.
  • The fear (or avoidance) is not due to the physiological effects of a different medical condition or substance or another mental disorder.

It should be noted that a lot of people get nervous around other people on occasion—for example, many of us have anxiety about giving a presentation or public speaking. This, however, does not mean we have social anxiety or phobia.

Am I At Risk of Developing Social Phobia?

Social anxiety or social phobia sometimes occurs in those who have a history of shyness. It could be triggered by a traumatic or embarrassing life event or even a life-changing decision like getting married or starting a new job. It may hang in the balance, disappearing when the individual conquers a fear, but returning when the individual is challenged yet again.

Presentation can differ among age groups: older adults experience social anxiety at a lesser level, but fear a greater multitude of situations; younger individuals, on the other hand, report greater levels of social anxiety but in very specific instances. Also, adolescents more consistently experience fear and avoidance than younger children. Now, there are several additional factors that may affect susceptibility to developing social anxiety. These factors raise concern and possibly your risk level:

  1. The individual has a history of fearing the scrutiny of others.
  2. He or she was neglected as a child.
  3. The phobia runs in the individual’s family.

Social Anxiety on the Big Screen

Charlie so easily steals our hearts with his charisma, charm, and innocent nature, in novel and film The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And while it may not occur to you due to his boldness, it is possible that he has social anxiety. Let’s make a careful evaluation:

  • Overview: Charlie is a young teen, one who is simply trying to maneuver through his first years of high school despite past and current struggles. This isn’t always easy, as he’s still very much dealing with his best friend’s recent suicide and a history of being sexually abused by his aunt.
  • Diagnosis: Although it isn’t exclusively discussed in the novel or film, it appears that Charlie may suffer from a few disorders. He has recurrent flashbacks related to his abuse, which cause him emotional distress—and ultimately may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Additionally, Charlie has trouble navigating normal social interactions. He grew up shy and sheltered and fears the scrutiny of his peers. While Charlie certainly doesn’t allow any of these factors to get in his way when it matters the most, they could point to a mild form of social anxiety.
  • Conclusion: Charlie has many of the risk factors for social anxiety and shows possible symptoms. But remember, one cannot make a sure diagnosis unless the individual meets all of the criteria outlined in the DSM.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

Many individuals who suffer with anxiety disorders don’t seek treatment due to shame or feeling as if they can just deal with it on their own. However, treatment is available and effective. Here are a couple options:

Social Anxiety Therapy – Counselors and Therapists in Littleton, CO

It is always your little way of getting out of situations. That one little thing you use all the time.

Let’s see what it is this week: Maybe it’s a new pimple or that strange freckle that prevents you from going on that date. Maybe you have an assignment that you can say you need to do to get out of that picnic. Maybe you have the slightest headache and can use that. All of these are excuses to get out of your social situation.

You hang on to that one little thing like it is your last lifeline. It will not save you.

Using these excuses habitually is a symptom of social anxiety or social phobia. Millions of Americans suffer from this condition, and many (if not most) of them are not very different from you. They have families. They have jobs. They have friends. And they have other responsibilities just like you. They also have one their own “little things” that they use as their escape.

The major difference between all of these other people with the same ailment as you, is whether they are actively treating it or not. The ones who continue their lives not receiving treatment for social anxiety disorder are also the ones continuing to use that one little thing.

Do not let that little thing become your crutch.

The licensed therapists, counselors, and other mental health providers at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO are skilled in helping persons with social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Our counselors have an extensive list of tools and exercises to get your social life back on track and heading in the right direction.

What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

If you suffer from one or some of the following, you may have social anxiety or social phobia. The compassionate anxiety counselors at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO can help you not only overcome these symptoms but also feel normal and positive around others, having the fortitude to make new friends and obtain a healthy social life.

Some symptoms of social anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Nervousness in crowds
  • Making excuses to avoid social events
  • Nausea and other physical symptoms when being approached by others
  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Lying to others to escape a situation

This symptom list is not exhaustive, by any means. If you suffer from another symptom not listed especially when in a social situation, do not wait to get help.

Get Effective Treatment for Social Anxiety at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO

The fully licensed, highly qualified mental health professionals at Thriveworks in Littleton, CO use evidence-based therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and exposure therapy to understand and resolve unique symptoms of anxiety. New clients can often meet with their counselor in-person or online within 24-48 hours of their initial booking. Thriveworks members can also reach out to their provider by phone or email between full sessions.

Make an appointment today and begin your journey toward overcoming social anxiety. Let’s get to work.

Social Anxiety Disorder Therapy in Conway, AR—Therapists, Counselors

It was a single and simple question that burst into a thousand more: “Want to hang out tonight?!”

Categorized as an anxiety disorder, social anxiety (also known as social phobia) affects millions of Americans each year. Socially anxious people question themselves much more than someone with the disorder.

A simple question such as “Want to hang out?” can lead to a slippery slope in your mind that has an unlimited supply of questions and excuses not to be interactive with others:

  • Do you really think this is a good idea?
  • It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone, right?
  • What if someone you don’t know expects a conversation, but you don’t know how to react?
  • Even worse, what if it’s someone you do know?
  • I have a feeling, they don’t really like me.

Some symptoms of social phobia can be very mild such as avoidance of social situations to severe physical symptoms of anxiety including confusion, sweating and shaking in social situations.

The invitation may be a great thing in order to get out of the house and away from the TV or computer, but the fear and worry of looking out of place or being judged in a social setting can hold you back.

You are now facing a major daily fear. In the midst of the frustration of trying to derive yet another excuse for not attending, productive work seems to be put aside by personal matters that require more time now due to the nature of your anxiety.

With the help of Thriveworks Conway, you will receive the tools, motivation, and education to succeed in facing this phobia head-on and eliminate the fear and worry associated with social anxiety disorder.

Thriveworks’ certified counselors guide you through the stages necessary to regain and take control of your freedom to enjoy the rest of your life meeting new people, experiencing deeper connection with others and enjoying the presence of friends and family.

Each session is tailor-made to fit the individual needs and concerns which makes success a reality so don’t hesitate and keep slipping; let’s climb out of the slippery slope together.

Call Thriveworks Conway social anxiety counseling today at 501-404-9737.

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